New Carpoolers Save $116,500 with Rideshare Rewards: Popular Gas and Safeway Gift Card Program Extended

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511 Rideshare, the program that helps commuters form carpools, has recruited 400 new carpoolers into its popular rewards program. In just three months, carpoolers will have earned about $40,000 in gas or Safeway gift cards, while saving an estimated $76,500 in gas costs.

The 511 Regional Rideshare Program has recruited 400 new carpoolers for its Rideshare Rewards program in just three months. Altogether, these commuters will save an estimated $76,500 in gas costs, and will earn about $40,000 in Rideshare Rewards for a total value of about $116,500. 511 Rideshare, the program that puts drivers into carpools and vanpools, is now extending the popular rewards program until September 29.

“The price of gas is still at record highs and the cost at the pump is about double what it was four years ago,” said project manager Tad Widby. “That has got to take a toll on family budgets.” With Rideshare Rewards, commuters not only earn gift cards by carpooling, but also reduce driving costs by sharing expenses, reducing auto wear and tear, and crossing bridges toll-free during rush hour.

“We’d like to persuade as many solo drivers as possible to try carpooling,” Widby said. “It saves commuters money, gets cars off the roads, and reduces pollution.”

Rideshare Rewards, which began on May 1, awards new carpoolers $10 in gas or Safeway gift cards (Safeway is the corporate sponsor for Rideshare Rewards) for every five days they carpool, up to a maximum $100 within a three-month period.

Participants in the pilot program are carpooling 17 days per month on average, or just over four days a week. Based on a roundtrip commute of 60 miles, gas at $3.00 per gallon, and autos getting 24 miles per gallon, these carpoolers save about $7.50 each day they don’t drive. At the end of the three-month program, these commuters can save about $190 dollars on gas alone. Add Rideshare Rewards, and the total jumps to nearly $300.

The special promotion was just the extra push that Jon Rubin needed to start a carpool. The Mountain House resident teamed up with a coworker in early May to commute to their jobs at a hi-tech firm in Pleasanton.

In just three months, Rubin carpooled for 51 days during his 50 mile roundtrip commute. Since he only drove his car for half those days, he calculates a savings of about $150 in gas, and he’s earned $90 in Rideshare Rewards. Rubin calculates his combined savings at about $240.

An intangible benefit Rubin didn’t expect is the relaxed commute. He says “having someone to talk to” during the long ride reduces the stress of driving alone.

Of the two rewards offered, Rubin chose the Safeway gift card over the gas card. “The price of gas fluctuates wildly, but I figure the Safeway card will retain a constant value,” he said. Although carpooling may be fairly new to him, some things never change. When asked what he’d do with his Safeway gift card, Rubin said he’d “hand it to his wife.”

Meanwhile, Widby said 511 Rideshare's success in encouraging carpooling continues its upward curve. Registration for ridesharing during the first seven months of 2006 was up 60 percent compared to last year. From January through August 1 of 2006, Widby said about 9,200 commuters had registered for ridesharing compared to 5,755 for the same period in 2005.

Once the program is completed, 511 Rideshare will award $1,000 to one lucky participant who carpooled at least 40 days during the rewards period. Bay Area commuters originally had until July 31 to sign up and earn cash rewards. Commuters can now sign up through September 29. The gift cards will be distributed monthly, after final commute logs are submitted.

To learn more, go to the Rideshare Rewards home page, or call 511 and say "Rideshare." 511 Rideshare, like all the travel information on the Metropolitan Transportation Commission's popular 511 phone and Web system, is a free service.

Key Rideshare Rewards Facts:

400 commuters are participating in Rideshare Rewards as of August 1, 2006

On average, based on 429 monthly commute logs, these Rideshare Rewards participants have:

-Carpooled an average of 17 days per month (or 4.25 days per week)

-Traveled a total of about 445,000 carpool miles, or about 1,600 miles each

-Reduced Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) in the Bay Area by about 723,000 miles

-Reduced the number of vehicle trips made in the Bay Area by about 29,000 trips

About 511 Rideshare: 511 Rideshare is a free service funded by grants from the Federal Highway Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), the Bay Area Air Quality Management District and county congestion management agencies. It helps commuters find other drivers to carpool or vanpool together to work. Qualifying carpools can cross Bay Area toll bridges free of charge during commute hours and may qualify for additional financial incentives or subsidies.

For more information, visit the 511.org Rideshare home page. View the 30-second animated 511 Rideshare Public Service Announcement.

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Susan Gluss
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